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We asked Excellence Award Winners: What Surprised You About Remote Learning?

The first day of school is just a few weeks away, and new SA teachers are deep into their training. As they prepare to launch the year remotely, first day nerves might be a little more intense than they might otherwise be — few anticipated starting their teaching career online and don’t quite know what to expect. To help ease their anxiety, we’re sharing what some of our top teachers had to say about their experiences of teaching remotely last year. Here’s what they found most surprising:


“Watching parents prioritize their scholar’s education, even under these circumstances has been amazing to witness. My scholars’ parents have truly become invested in the remote learning process. This has made remote learning so pleasant and all of our discussions so purposeful because everyone is prepared and has their work ready to share!”

Kailah Kaner, First-grade AT, SA Washington Heights 

“How smooth the transition was for my 8th graders. There have obviously been bumps in the road, but holistically my students are signing on and continuing to complete high-level work that they will need to master when they transition to high school.”

Kelly Morris, Eighth-grade ELA teacher, SA Harlem East 

How much has stayed the same. Sneha Johnson still says “Good morning Ms. Garbasz!” when she enters our webinar; Jason Zabre still manages to explain concepts better than even I can; and my scholars still pepper me with questions before, during, and after class. It is a testament to our scholars’ resilience that they have taken remote learning in stride and continued to build community.

—Julietta Garbasz, Math LT, SA High School of the Liberal Arts 

“The amazing relationships I have formed with parents. Remote learning has provided educators and parents with the unique opportunity to truly work hand in hand. I look forward to maintaining these strong relationships when we return to regular learning.”

Julie Friedman, First-grade ICT, SA Harlem

“How serious the scholars have been taking this new change. This is all new for us … for them! The fact that they are living through history is remarkable. Parents have been super patient with us teachers and on top of it. It has its ups and downs, don’t get me wrong. You see scholars in rare forms when they are home.” 

—Sanjita Dham, Second-grade LT, SA Bensonhurst 

“Watching some of the scholars who were having significant difficulties within the classroom setting find success with remote schooling. Some of my scholars who were often easily distracted in the classroom by the setting or by their peers are now reporting that it’s been helpful to be able to focus during the set times of their VC’s. Many of these students are now being nominated for scholar of the week during remote learning!

—Sarah Chen, School Psychologist, SA Upper West 

“Not surprising: how much I miss my kids and my class. Surprising: how much my kids and their families have stepped up. Even in the face of uncertainty and difficulty, these kids come to online class every day ready to learn and I am absolutely in awe of them.”

Anna Light, Kindergarten ICT, SA Williamsburg

“I was flummoxed by the thought of teaching music remotely. How could I possibly teach my scholars new content without standing adjacent to them? Much to my surprise, I am finding that it is possible, as I watch my scholars synthesize and utilize new musical concepts via video call. This is partially a testament to our scholars’ dedication to learning even when they are not in a traditional classroom setting.”

Joanna Malaszczyk, Lead Music Teacher, SA Williamsburg

“The level of independence that many scholars had developed. Many of them have taken it upon themselves to hold their education to the highest standard. They have realized how crucial it is to their development as students and have grown, almost overnight, into this role.”

Mabel Polanco, Seventh-grade History Teacher, SA Hudson Yards Middle School 

“How creative it has allowed me to be! During our current unit in Science (Earth in Space), I have been able to do some virtual magic to make it seem like a real alien (Hello, Peeko!) has hacked into my computer and is asking the class questions about our solar system and universe! This is exciting because it is something that I might not have been able to as realistically and successfully pull off in a physical classroom. While remote learning overall has had a lot of challenges, I think I am grateful for how this medium has also pushed me to be more creative about the ways in which I engage my scholars in their work.”

—Hanisha Harjani, Fifth-grade Lead Science Teacher, SA Myrtle Middle School 

“How remote schooling has brought our community together in unexpected ways. So many people are coming together to make this work for our kids. No one deserves to have their schooling interrupted, but everyone has handled it with grace.”

Allie O’Hair, Senior Operations Associate, SA Harlem

“How all the teachers and staff at SA Lafayette Middle School have banded together to create the most accommodating and well-thought out remote learning experience for our kiddos. I will say it is hardly surprising when I think about it in depth as we have been an amazing team since the start of the school year. Remote learning has not been able to break the strong foundation we have built.

Sariba Levin, SPRINT Specialist, SA Midtown West Middle School 


Written by Success Academy July 31, 2020

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